New bill could require a prescription for most sunscreens

A state lawmaker from Orlando is proposing requiring a prescription for most sunscreens due to environmental concerns.

“It really is for the survival of our coral reefs and fishery,” said Sen. Linda Stewart.

She says there are two chemicals in sunscreens – Oxybenzone and Octinoxate – that are getting into the ocean and doing damage. Hawaii and Key West have already banned lotions with those ingredients.

According to Stewart’s new bill, people in Florida would need a doctor to write a prescription to get a lotion with those chemicals on the label.

“There are some that have been able to formulate a different sunscreen that works just fine,” Stewart said.

A local dermatologist has a different take on the whole thing.

“We know that these ingredients that she’s trying to ban are in like 70 to 80 percent of all commercially available sunscreens,” said Dr. Matthew Knight, the president of the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatological Surgery. “It’s way too soon on something like this. We feel like it’s a terrible idea.”

Knight says there’s not enough research to prove those chemicals hurt coral reefs, but there is solid evidence that sunscreen saves lives.

“I can tell you that what that’s going to do is increase the melanoma epidemic in our state. We’re already in the midst of a huge problem. We're seeing a tremendous uptick in the number of skin cancer and melanoma which can be fatal,” Knight said.

Stewart released a statement on Wednesday that said that her proposal does not discourage the use of sunscreen. She said that "I agree with doctors about the short- and long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen and encourage everyone to do so. My bill would simply require sunscreen available over-the-counter in Florida to be free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals which research has shown contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs, lead to deformities in fish and other aquatic life, and threaten the general health of our oceans."


The release added that there are many alternative sunscreens already available to Floridians. Not only are they less damaging to reefs, but they sometimes offer superior protection from the sun.

If Stewart’s bill ends up passing, it would go into effect in July of 2020.